Our response to recent publicity around Acorn

On April 20th, Follow the Money published a Dutch article about the activities of the Acorn program in Ivory Coast. We can not agree with the claims made in the article. First and foremost, we would like to highlight the purpose of our activities: supporting smallholder farmers in transitioning to more sustainable agriculture, with a focus on agroforestry. By switching to agroforestry, we strengthen the farmer’s income model, promote sustainability, and convert biomass growth into carbon credit sales. Eighty percent of the proceeds go directly to the farmers. We use validated measurement methods and have clear agreements with the relevant parties we collaborate with. Prior to publication, we transparently explained our approach to Follow the Money, and our documents are publicly available.

We recognize that the carbon market is a rapidly changing sector, and we continue to learn and improve. This is essential as we strive to innovate based on the latest insights and technologies. We work closely with local partners, customers, and other stakeholders. As a cooperative bank, we believe that together, we can achieve the best results and contribute to an ever-improving carbon market and a sustainable income model for farmers. This remains our commitment.

Q&A

What does Acorn actually do?

The Acorn team helps farmers in developing countries transition to more sustainable agriculture, with a focus on agroforestry. In countries where Acorn is active with the "Acorn program" it works closely with local partners, such as FarmStrong Foundation or Solidaridad. In turn, they support farmers in finding a suitable agroforestry system and in planting the trees and provide training for this purpose. These local partners also collect the necessary data that Acorn needs for calculations. Acorn then uses various validated measuring instruments to measure biomass growth, which they translate into Carbon Removal Units, and sell on the carbon market to companies that have concrete sustainability plans. The farmer gets 80% of the proceeds, the local partner 10% and Acorn 10%.

Because the carbon market is still fairly new and rapidly evolving, Acorn has a strong focus on external certification, frequent measurement and monitoring. They continue to continuously improve and innovate based on the latest insights and technologies. So that they continue to guarantee the farmers involved and their customers the right quality. In doing so, the team works closely with other parties active in this market.

Learn more: Planting a better future with smallholder farmers | Acorn Rabobank

On what topics did questions arise?

The questions addressed Acorn's activities in Côte d'Ivoire, calculations and additionality. Acorn has transparently demonstrated in the response that the program is additional (in accordance with the requirements of the Acorn framework) and that the calculations are accurate. This is externally certified and validated by independent bodies. In addition, there were questions about validation and verification. To our regret, we see little of this reflected in this publication.

We realize that the carbon market is a rapidly changing sector, and we too continue to learn and improve based on the latest insights and technologies. We work closely with local partners, customers and other stakeholders. We believe that together we can achieve the best results, contributing to an ever improving carbon market and a good earning model for the local farmer.

Can you clarify?

Acorn has transparently shared several pieces and explained how they proceeded to confirm that they acted duly. In addition, the journalists have been invited for a personal meeting if more clarification is needed. The bottom line is that the carbon market is still fairly new and rapidly evolving. The journalists' questions focused on a country where local guidelines for carbon emissions rights were not yet available when Acorn started there. Recently, when new guidelines were published, Acorn adapted to these circumstances to continue to ensure appropriate quality for the farmers involved and others. In the end, Acorn is all about the individual farmer, who receives 80% of the revenue, providing opportunities to transition to more sustainable agriculture, with a focus on agroforestry. Acorn works with a certified methodology and the calculation method is also externally audited. Moreover, Acorn takes its responsibility by investigating the areas prior to and during the realization of projects for the presence of other possible projects; such as consulting available sources and questioning local and central governments about known initiatives. These steps - with supporting documents - have been shared to confirm that correct action has been taken.

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